Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) put bioinformatics at the heart of its inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) plans last week when it hooked its latest innovation center up with New York's Mount Sinai. The newly opened center in Boston and Mount Sinai aim to better understand IBD through computational biology.
Teaming up with teaching hospital Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine gives J&J data on large IBD patient populations and bioinformatics skills for analyzing biological information. The combination has the potential to overcome a major hole in current efforts to treat IBD, namely that the root causes of the disease are unclear. Getting a handle on the molecular basis of the disease would take some of the guesswork out of developing treatments for the 1.4 million Americans who have IBD.
Boston Innovation Center head Dr. Robert Urban told GEN: "That research alliance will allow us over time to understand biomarkers and other clinical attributes that will further advance our drug development exercises and make sure that we get the most out of the treatments that we have available for those patients, as well as hopefully discover new treatments." J&J already markets two drugs--Remicade and Simponi--for the IBD ulcerative colitis. And has just invested in Vedanta Biosciences, a Boston-based, PureTech Ventures-backed startup using microbes to treat IBD.
The computational biology work with Mount Sinai underpins J&J's plans for the next generation of IBD treatments. Over the course of the four-year, multi-million dollar collaboration, J&J expects to apply computational biology to build an IBD molecular interaction network capable of yielding high confidence hypotheses. J&J will then test hypotheses in vitro and in vivo to begin the process of turning fresh understanding of the causes of IBD into new or improved treatments.